Part 1. POWER!!!!

(Insert Jeremy Clarkson voice) POWER!!!! 

In my last post I was making some serious headway on the chassis. I was getting really close to taking the car off the jig and setting the car on the ground under its own weight. So it finally happened on October 1st 2016. It took about 6 months from cutting the front of the car off on the jig, to a rolling chassis. I called over some buddies and we “maneuvered” the car off the Jig. I think we just stood back and stared at it for quite some time. It was a pretty cool moment to see something I made with my own hands sit on the ground and roll on its own.

I wanted to see the car out of the shop and in the sun. So we roll the car out on to my gravel driveway. image1[1].JPG

Next I wanted to see the body on the car.image2.JPG

A photographer friend of mine wanted to roll the car out on the pavement and shoot the car in its natural habitat.

Photo Credit: Andrew Fortenberry

LS EVERYTHING! I jumped on the “LS swap everything” band wagon and for good reason. I’m no purest, with that said I didn’t feel like I needed to keep the power plant in the (Nissan) family. I had 3 goals with a motor.

  1. 400 naturally aspirated (to the rear wheels) horse power.
  2. Reliability.
  3. The ease of replacement parts.

The LSX platform was a smart choice for me. Achieving 400 N/A HP out of a LS motor is pretty easy. The motors are extremely reliable and you can go to any parts store for replacement parts.

So which LS motor did I choose? I went with the all aluminum 5.3L HO (L33) 310 crank HP motor. I came across a killer deal for $350.

Photo Credit: Kane Potter

I caught some flack that an LS motor was “way to heavy for a Z”. “You going to need huge brakes to stop that thing”. Blah Blah Blah… Here are the facts. The aluminum LS1 motor (fully dressed) is 19+/- pounds heavier that the commonly swapped iron block inline 6 L28T turbo motor found on later 280ZX cars. I went with a T56 six-speed Transmission. The commonly swapped T-5 transmission for the Z cars comes in about 18+/- pounds less. So in the end an aluminum LS1 motor/T56 tranny weights -40LBS more than the commonly swapped Nissan L28T motor/T5 tranny. Getting 400HP out of a L28T is pretty much a full blow race motor. You can get 400 reliable horse power with “bolt-ons”, light head work, and a cam shaft on the 5.3. I think my case for a LS swap in a race car was an easy one to make.

The motor was filthy. I stripped all of the accessories off the motor that I didn’t need and gave the motor a proper cleaning. The plan was to place the motor as far back and as low  as possible, while providing ground clearance. I cut some 4X4’s and placed them under the motor to mock up my vision. The fit looked great. image3.JPGIMG_3565.jpg

Once I had the motor in place I fabricated some motor mounts to make sure the motor stayed centered in the chassis.IMG_3640.jpg

I then bolted my T56 transmission on the engine. Setting the motor and transmission angle was tricky. I had to take into consideration that there were some unknown factors. For example, headers, starter accessibility, steering shaft, shifter location, alternator clearance, etc. The further back I placed the motor, the tighter the fit. I felt like the further back I could get the motor for weight displacement was well worth it. image5.JPG_MG_3486.jpg

I needed a differential so I could set my driveshaft pinion angle. I opted for a S14 VLSD differential that a friend gave me. Who doesn’t love FREE parts?!? Only one major issue. It looked like it lived at the bottom of the ocean…. More on that in part 2 of this post._MG_3472.jpg

I was reading a lot on pinion angles and universal joints. I saw a lot of mixed opinions on how to properly set up your pinion angle and what were acceptable angles. I needed to talk to a pro. I called “The Driveshaft Shop” and spoke to the owner. In short, he explained to me that you don’t want to set your pinion angle and yoke flange past 3 degrees. Can you? For sure, but you start to wear the bearings in the universal joint quicker or risk breakage.  He said back in the day you didn’t want a completely straight drive shaft either. He assured me the closer to zero angle was optimal as universal joints have come a long way since the good ol’ days. These guys build driveshafts for serious drag cars, daily drivers, to trophy trucks. They know what they’re talking about.IMG_3516.jpg

After a lot of engine and transmission placement fine tuning, I got the angels on the yoke and pinion to 1 degree difference. In that time I built the transmission tunnel rails. I also tacked in some seat rails to stick a seat in.IMG_3631.jpg

We now have a rolling chassis with motor and transmission. Now that the car is really taking shape, I’m able to work on a bunch of mini projects.

Part 2. Project Inception.

As you can imagine, there are so many projects within a ground up race car build. I wanted to go over a few. I’ll do this from time to time as I get projects completed.

I touched on part 1 of this post that I needed a differential and my buddy gave me a free S14 VLSD differential. I also mentioned that it looked like it came from the bottom of the ocean. That being said I never thought I’d actually use it. At the time I just needed it for mock up. I took the 2 bolt S14 diff cover off to swap it out for a 4 bolt S13 cover and I was quite surprised. 1. It was in fact a VLSD (Viscous Limited Slip Differential). 2. It was damn clean inside. So I decided to clean it up and run with it._MG_3472.jpg

I spent WAY too much time chiseling off the rust. Once I had the rust handled, I throughly cleaned the gear set inside. I pulled out the ABS sensor. I then painted the housing using my favorite VHT satin black. I installed the GK-Tech solid bushings. I also order a 18mm freeze plug to seal up the old ABS sensor.IMG_3670.jpg

I wanted to try my hand a some cast aluminum welding and I also wanted to expand the oil capacity in the differential. Just buy an extra capacity cover right? Nissan did make them, but I wanted to hold more oil and I also wanted to run an oil cooler. Either way I was going to weld on a 20+ year old differential cover…IMG_3616.jpg

I cleaned the cover as much as I could. I knew this was going to be hell to weld. I cut a rectangle area out of the cover. I then made a cardboard template of the extension. Next I bent up some aluminum on my sheet metal brake. I then tacked on the extension. IMG_5963.JPG

It looked good to me so I welded her up. Welding the cast to the sheet aluminum was some tricky stuff. I also added a drain plug and 2 AN-8 bungs for feed and return the oil to the cooler.image1[1].JPGIMG_3673.jpgIMG_3676.jpg

Then it was off to powder coat. I went with an AMG silver. I picked up some new OEM diff cover bolts while I was at it. I’m really happy with the end result.IMG_3720.jpgIMG_3721.jpg

At the same time I was working on refurbishing my brake set up as I wanted to powder coat my calipers the same AMG silver. I bought a Wilwood kit for a S13 a few months prior. Another good deal I couldn’t pass up. They were painted poorly and needed a refresh. I also collected 4 Nissan 300ZX (Z32) rear calipers. I’ll be running a hand brake on the car and GK-Tech makes a bracket to run a set of calipers for normal braking and a hand brake. All of the parts were whooped and needed a rebuild/refresh._MG_3480.jpg

I striped all of the calipers down and sent the housings out for powder coating. I had the hardware zink coated and I polished the pistons. All of that hard work paid off. They came out killer.IMG_3702.jpgIMG_3718.jpg

I also sent the rotor hats out for re-anodizing. The black color was fading and I didn’t do all of this work for something to look out of place. I wanted to do something funky with the rotor hats. I envisioned a lasered “repeater” Wilwood logo on edge of the hat. I though it would be noticeable when the wheels were on the car and the look paid off big time. I’m really happy with how the brakes turned out. Check out the new 5 lug hubs and new ARP extended speed studs. If you have been paying attention I had 4 lug hubs before. New wheels?IMG_3728.jpgIMG_3723.jpg

The last project I want to show you on this post was a fun one. Greg at GK-Tech told me he had a new “Nascar” style sway bar coming out for S-Chassis cars. I was pretty intrigued. I knew mounting a sway bar was going to be tricky but I had an idea….IMG_3736.jpg

I mounted the sway bar on top of the frame rails with the sway bar rotated horizontally. I know it’s not conventional, but it worked out really well. I started off by welding bungs to the frame rails so I could attach the sway bar bushing clamps. IMG_3607.jpg

I then fabricated some aluminum end links and adjustable lower control arm mounts.IMG_3681.jpg

Here you have the end result (just add jam nuts). There is so much adjustment now to dial in the sway bar and plenty of clearance for the sway bar to move.


The car is starting to come along now. I want to know what you think or if you have any questions. Be sure to leave a comment. Thanks for taking the time to read my posts!

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